Sandleman & Associates, a California-based foodservice consumer research firm, has named its 2012 "Fast-Food Awards of Excellence" winners.

According to the firm's research, fast casual brands ranked high among the best rated and fastest growing concepts.

The 2012 Top 10 "excellent" chains are:

  1. Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers
  2. Chick-fil-A
  3. Café Rio Mexican Grill
  4. In-N-Out Burger
  5. Jason's Deli
  6. Capriotti's Sandwich Shop
  7. Thundercloud Subs
  8. The Habit Burger Grill
  9. Five Guys Burgers & Fries
  10. Panera Bread

The Top 10 "large" chains (500-plus units) are:

  1. Chick-fil-A
  2. Five Guys Burgers & Fries
  3. Panera Bread
  4. Firehouse Subs
  5. Chipotle Mexican Grill
  6. Jersey Mike's Submarines
  7. Zaxby's
  8. Papa Murphy's Pizza
  9. Starbucks
  10. Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches

In 2012, 63 percent of Raising Cane's and Chick-fil-A's customers rated their most recent visit "excellent" overall (rating of "5" on a 5-point scale).

"It's notable that four of the Top 10 excellent large chains are in the sandwich business," said Bob Sandelman, CEO and founder of Sandelman & Associates. "These Top 10 chains offer high-quality fresh food, served in comfortable and inviting surroundings, and they're raising the bar for all quick-service chains."

Awards of Excellence are given for overall satisfaction and for the best performances on 16 attributes of the dining experience, such as "taste and flavor of the food" and "quality of the ingredients."

Café Rio, a fast casual Mexican chain based in Salt Lake City, ranked No. 1 on "taste and flavor of the food." For the fifth consecutive year, Little Caesars garnered the top spot for "affordability of the prices" and finished in a virtual tie with Papa Murphy's Pizza on "value for the money."

Subway continues to be highest rated for healthy and nutritious food. Sales leader McDonald's for the second year in a row has been supplanted in the No. 1 spot on "kid appeal" by Chick-fil-A.

The awards are based on results reported in the quarterly syndicated Quick-Track study conducted by Sandelman & Associates. In 2012 Quick-Track surveyed more than 110,000 quick-service restaurant users, gathering information about 1.4 million visits in more than 90 U.S. media markets.

Read more about trends and statistics.

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